SCARPA athlete and well known climber Robbie Phillips has written this very insightful guide on the next generation of Scarpa climbing shoes. Having tested and worn them himself, he goes in to detail about their new features, what they do and what type of climbing they are perfect for. This guide goes into depth about the Booster and Veloce.
The “Climbing shoe” is not a static product. It changes over time, evolving and adapting alongside the climbers who wear them, and the shoemakers who build them. Every season that passes, a new range of climbing shoes are brought into the limelight as the technology of climbing shoe manufacture improves, allowing us to do even more incredible things with our climbing. But as I have spoken about before, it is rare that a climber really knows how their climbing shoe performs, and all that they ask for is that it does so without question. For those of you reading this, you are the small percentage of people who don’t just want a Ferrari, but you want to know why it’s so fast, why it drives so smooth, and why it makes you look so Goddamn sexy!
Entering the next decade with a bang, SCARPA have unleashed a solid new line-up of stylish Italian climbing footwear, that are not only harnessing the very latest in material technology and design, but are re-shaping the way we climbers utilise our feet on the wall. SCARPA have 6 new models of climbing shoe in 2020 covering the whole range of specialist areas; from those of a more relaxed fit for all-day performance, to the ultra precision line for when precision and power is key, and then to the ultra sensitive shoes for when soft and sensitivity makes sense.
Welcome to the Next Generation of SCARPA climbing shoes!
Booster: New and Improved
For those of you who’ve been in the game a while, you might remember the old Booster. An absolute classic, which was my entry into the wonderful world of SCARPA, and the first time I’d seen how a well-built shoe could drastically improve performance. Back then this shoe was competing against the extremely popular LA SPORTIVA Solution and not only holding it’s own, but shifting long held allegiances. 10 years on and the Booster has gone through two more re-developments, including the previous Booster S, and the now new and improved Booster
What does it do?
The Booster has always been a shoe fit for purpose; steep climbing where precision and toe power is the key to success. The Booster original was ahead of its time in terms of its focus on precision footwork, and the Booster S built on this quality with improved technology, that the new Booster has improved on once again!
But what do I mean by precision and what makes a precise shoe. Well as SCARPA designer Nathan Hoette so eloquently put it:
“Precision is utilising small holds with some sensitivity”
A shoe like the Booster is designed to give the most support through your toes, whilst not compromising on sensitivity. This allows us to maximise our power when standing on small footholds, whilst still getting that feel for the rock that allows us to perform to our best whilst climbing. It’s important to understand that we get support in our climbing shoes via the rubber sole, the midsole, tension system and the way our toes are shaped in the shoe, but to gain sensitivity for more technical climbing will inevitably compromise the support of the shoe somewhere.
A rubber sole varies in thickness and rigidity to provide a level of support and grip specific to the shoe. For example, a 3.5mm XSGrip2 rubber sole will provide good flexibility and good grip, whilst a 4mm XSEdge rubber sole will provide uncompromising rigidity with less sensitivity.
The midsole varies in thickness, material and shape to provide a variety of effects. Different types of plastic are used to create different levels of support, whilst the shape of it can provide specific support to certain parts of the shoe, and even flexibility such as in the Boosters hollowed midsole.
The Tension System
The tensioning system utilises what we call “tensioned rubber” or “elasticated rubber”, which acts as an active midsole, providing both support to the foot, and structure to the climbing shoe. Depending on the shape of the tensioning system, this elasticated rubber can pull the shoe material in different directions, giving more support to the feet for standing on smaller footholds.
The Shape of the Foot
The shape of the foot can also create better support for standing on small footholds such as when in a crimped position. If we want a more comfortable flat footed shoe, then to get the same support, we need to increase the rigidity of the shoe either by putting a harder plastic midsole in, or perhaps a thicker/harder rubber sole.
Part of the genius behind the new Booster isthat it balances support and sensitivity really well without compromising too much on either, to give without a doubt one the most technically advanced climbing shoe designs ever made. The Booster has followed the Furia Air into the next generation with a whole host of new materials and designs.
The Upper: A new ceramic microfiber is being implemented solely in the Booster to create a thinner upper, providing a better all-round fit without compromising the durability of the upper.
Toe Panelling: A new material for climbing shoes that SCARPA are implementing is called Alcantera, and is being used on the front toe panel to provide more durability and longevity of performance in the shoe. This material was used in the Furia Air as well and is much more expensive, but it’s worth it for a better performing shoe for longer!
Midsole: The midsole has become larger, providing more support over a larger area, but retains the hollowed out midsole for better flexibility and sensitivity in the foot. The hollowed out section takes the form of a swoosh for flex and extra sensitivity across the forefoot.
Last: The new Booster is built to a new last with a wider forefoot and shallower heel. The idea behind this is to make a more comfortable fit without compromising precision. The shallower heel forces the toes further into the toe box giving the effect of a lower volume fit (without it really being lower volume) and creating that crimped toe effect for precision. With the combination of a wider forefoot with a more supportive midsole alongside a shallower heel, we should have a shoe that is both comfortable and doesn’t compromise on performance.
Heel System: The heel on the new Booster is very similar to the Furia Air, utilising the PAF (Pressure Absorbing Fit) heel system – it’s narrower in and around the heel, but wider up by the Achilles both providing comfort and the effect of pushing the toes forward for a more crimped positioning. The visually interesting aspect of the new Booster heel is the addition of a Mohawk-esque strip of super soft M50 rubber (think Drago toe rubber) held in place by a wrap of XSGrip2 rubber, the combination of which will provide a unique and effective heel hooking tool.
The Booster Concluded
So as I said before, the Booster is a shoe fit for purpose. Its goal has always been to give support in the toe without compromising on sensitivity, thereby providing the ultimate performance in steep technical climbing. The Booster is at home on any overhanging rock faces where the footholds are small and the movements are technical, but don’t get me wrong, the Booster will adapt to slabs and vertical rock faces, it just won’t be as adept as say an Instinct or a Maestro. The Booster is built for rock, and thus its talents are wasted indoors where Drago’s, Chimeras and Furia S/Airs are at home, but it will perform regardless in this domain, and perhaps even exceptionally well on indoor routes as opposed to boulders.
In terms of where it sits on the SCARPA family tree:
- It’s stiffer than a Drago by some margin, providing more power where the Drago makes up for in flex and sensitivity.
- It’s softer than a Boostic by some margin, making up for it with improved sensitivity and grip.
- It’s not as precise as the Mago but it’s more comfortable, with a better all-round fit and slightly lower toe box (albeit still a high toe box). If you always wanted the precision of the Mago but couldn’t hack the fit, then the Booster is your best bet!
The Booster is without a doubt a weapon built for hard sport climbing on limestone, granite and any rock type where you implement small footholds. It’s a shoe that good climbers will love, and great climbers will worship!
Veloce: The Indoor Shoe!
Think back to when you’d just started climbing and were looking for your first pair of shoes… You probably asked an instructor at the wall for some advice before going into a local retailer and getting even more advice from someone in the store. I have absolutely no doubt about the type of shoe they would have suggested; something robust, rigid and uncompromisingly stiff, in their minds, the perfect shoe for a beginner climber.
This was true… 20 years ago, when most people started climbing outside! That was a time where beginner climbers needed a rigid shoe to stand on crossly edges and withstand the heavy abuse of rock. But in the 21st century more climbers begin their climbing careers indoors, and even those who have their first experiences on rock tend to spend more and more of their time on plastic due to weather, time constraints and the accessibility of climbing walls, and lets be honest, indoor climbing is just bloody good fun!
Enter the Veloce, a completely new take on climbing shoes for the indoor climber. This is marketed as a beginner shoe, but it’s not just that, it’s really just a shoe for those who want comfort in the climbing gym that isn’t a plank of wood with rubber wrapped around it. I expect to see beginners and elite level climbers utilising this shoe to different ends – beginners learning movement skills on the indoor walls, whilst elite level climbers training to get stronger on steep training boards.
What does it do?
Where previous beginner climbing shoes were flat footed with full-length extremely rigid soles, the Veloce turns that whole concept of a beginner climbing shoe upside down by providing a super soft, supple and sensitive shoe designed almost exclusively with indoor climbing in mind.
Indoor footholds are large sloping features, not small edges like on rock, and it’s becoming ever more common to see beginners on steeper angles rather than on slabs. It makes complete sense that beginner indoor climbers would want a shoe to match this environment; something like a Drago, or a Furia. But these shoes are expensive and force the toes into a crimped position, which neither is ideal for your first pair of shoes. What the Veloce does really well is create a soft comfortable shoe that performs better indoors than any of its counterparts such as Velocity and Helix, and yet retains that same durability.
Last: The Veloce is built on a completely new last with a more rounded forefoot, providing more room for the four toes, with the big toe crimped up slightly for better precision. It is slightly asymmetric and slightly down-turned, but still very comfortable!
Midsole: The midsole is the same as in the Drago, so extremely soft providing great sensitivity and marginal support for the toes.
Sole: Really exciting is the introduction of a completely new soft rubber sole called S72, which is the softest rubber SCARPA use (considerably softer than XSGrip2). But what about durability you ask? Don’t worry, S72 and XSGrip2 have the same level of durability when tested side by side. There is however a compromise in stability when standing on small footholds and sharp rock which can cause S72 rubber to roll off the footholds under less pressure and get torn up. To combat this SCARPA have added an extra 0.5mm of rubber to the sole for even more durability under those types of conditions.
Upper: The same super soft M50 rubber from the Drago is used on the upper of the Veloce. This creates better stick for toe hooking, but mainly allows the toe to be pushed forward easier, and as it’s softer it’s also more comfortable. Don’t expect the level of toe hook performance that a Drago offers, but the comfort is undeniably better!
Tension System: The tension system is called DTS, and is the same as for the Furia Air, however it has less holes throughout creating a more supportive yet still very flexible shoe.
Closure System: The Wave Closure System draws pressure from many points making a more secure yet comfortable fit, but also the major benefit of the Wave Closure System is it maintains flexibility in the upper. A closure system like the traditional double velcro closure is more bulky and allows less flexibility.
Heel System: The Veloce uses the PAF heel system just like the Furia Air and Booster, except with slightly less tension through the heel for a more comfortable fit.
The Veloce Concluded
The Veloce is the shoe built for indoor climbing. It’s perfect for beginners, and great for those who want a comfortable shoe to train in – I know I’ll be using it for this a lot! That isn’t to say that it can’t function on rock though, it’s just that it has its place indoors on big smeary footholds. Maybe it will become a nice mileage shoe for you? For running circuits around the forest of Fontainbleau, or for doing laps on easy solos at Stanage, or maybe even a comfortable all-day shoe for easy multipitches?
In terms of where it sits on the SCARPA family tree:
- It’s much much much softer than any of the other RELAXED FIT models such as Helix, Velocity and Origin, but just as durable!
- It’s softer than Arpia and has a better range of attributes specific to indoor climbing, but loses that edge on smaller footholds that you will find on rock that the Arpia will be more capable of handling.
- It’s very similar in many ways to a Drago, but is built with comfort in mind. A good way of thinking about the Veloce is that it’s the comfy Drago!
If you’re a beginner indoor climber, the Veloce is the best shoe on the market! If you’re an experienced indoor climber looking for a training shoe, then the Veloce is what you want! The Veloce will perform well on hard climbing, but it won’t have the precision that a Drago or Chimera has on smaller footholds,or indeed anywhere near the support that an Instinct VS-R provides.
The Veloce is the beginning of the revolution for indoor specific climbing shoes; built on the technical developments of the performance shoes, Drago and Furia Air, SCARPA is bringing climbing performance back to the people!
VIVE LA REVOLUTION!!!
Keep an eye out for part 2 of the guide coming soon were Robbie talks about the new Vapour lace coming out and the Instinct VS Wmn which is currently on the market.